Last week, Bloomberg reported that Walmart filed paperwork with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to create its own cryptocurrency. According to its patent application, the retailer is interested in developing a digital coin to expedite transactions and implement a new loyalty program. The corporation made its filing in January, and the Trademark Office published it on August 1.
However, consumers should know Walcoin won’t be available anytime soon. A Walmart representative told Bloomberg it’s not working on a branded digital coin “at this time.”
Definitely Not Libra
Notably, Walmart’s cryptocurrency plans are very different from Facebook’s recently announced Libra initiative. For one thing, the hypermarket’s filing intended to use its digital coin as a payment solution for the U.S. market. Conversely, the social network aims for its cryptocurrency to be a worldwide alternative to traditional fiat money.
Indeed, Walmart seemingly wants its own coin to optimize its current operations, not to break into a new industry. If the corporation did launch a blockchain payment network, its checkout lines could likely move a lot faster. As an example, the Optherium system claims to process transactions four times more quickly than Visa. Moreover, being able to process payments online rapidly would help the hypermarket compete against e-commerce rival Amazon.
Furthermore, the retailer already uses blockchain technology in other parts of its business. Bloomberg notes Walmart uses the digital record-keeping solution to track the status of produce through its supply line. As such, the firm’s potential cryptocurrency offering would be an extension of its existing operations.
Also, the corporation could upgrade its Walmart pay contactless payment system to facilitate cryptocurrency transactions.
Besides, as Walmart hasn’t spent the last year embroiled in a series of high-profile scandals, consumers, legislators, and the press might view its cryptocurrency more favorably than Libra. Though the retailer has its critics, the fact that it’s not a globally reviled brand suggests its digital coin wouldn’t be received as poorly.
Loyalty Programs Reimagined
One notable facet of Walmart’s cryptocurrency application is the corporation wants to use its digital coin to revamp its customer loyalty program. The firm’s patent filing reveals it intends to use blockchain to track its customers’ purchase history. The company would also use a digital ledger to calculate and deploy savings for individual users based on those records.
Currently, Walmart offers purchase discounts and cashback benefits to consumers who use its credit, debit, and prepaid cards. Presumably, the firm’s cryptocurrency would replace those products with a streamlined blockchain-based payment solution. It’s worth noting the retailer could save a great deal of money by establishing an internal financial network. At scale, the company’s digital coin could greatly reduce its payment card hosting and processing charges.
Cowen market analyst Jaret Seiberg noted the firm might introduce its digital coin to the public in the form of a rechargeable gift card. Doing so would allow the corporation to make complicated blockchain tech comprehensible for everyday consumers. Also, because Walmart operates 11,300 stores that serve 275 million people daily, it could quickly establish the world’s largest private payment network.